This is a seriously cute photo, but the attached story offers a lesson in habitat isolation and its worrisome effects on genetic diversity . . .
Admit it. You only clicked on this story because of the photo of that insanely cute mountain lion kitten. You just wanted to gaze into her (yes, it’s a her) milky blue eyes.
But there’s more to the story of this kitten. Researchers have named her P-54. She’s no more than a few months old. And – this is the sad part – it’s likely that she’s the product of inbreeding.
The kitten was born amidst the urban sprawl of Southern California in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the largest urban national park in the country. The recreation area is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, agricultural fields and greater Los Angeles.
It’s not always about grizzlies. Sometimes, our much larger population of black bears gets some attention . . .
Last year, researchers examined the genetic diversity of American black bears in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Now, scientists have expanded the study to include black bears throughout North America and have found a bit more about the genetics of these bears.
“This is the first genomics study of black bears across their range,” said Emily Puckett, one of the researchers, in a news release. “Using advanced nuclear genomics, the team delineated three geographic lineages of bears in the western and eastern regions of North America and in Alaska. After identifying the three lineages, the team delineated them into nine geographically relevant regional clusters to better understand the relationships of populations within each cluster.”